March 24, 2019 – Ottawa, ON – Public Health Agency of Canada
Today, on World Tuberculosis Day, I am encouraged by the ongoing efforts to eliminate tuberculosis (TB) in Canada, and by the fact that governments, researchers, community leaders and those impacted by TB are joining together to address the medical, social, and historical factors that have allowed TB to persist in our country.
Since the release of my report on TB in March 2018, much has been done to maintain the momentum necessary to reach our objectives. In September 2018, the first-ever United Nations (UN) General Assembly High-Level Meeting to End TB was held, marking a major milestone in collective efforts to bring an end to the global TB epidemic. I was privileged to attend this historic gathering of political leaders, where I witnessed the commitments made on behalf of all UN member states, including Canada, to accelerate progress towards eliminating TB by 2030.
On March 8 of this year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologized for the government’s mistreatment of Inuit with TB from the 1940s to the 1960s. In his statement, Prime Minister Trudeau acknowledged the injustices of the past and spoke of the need to work together to create a better future for Indigenous Peoples, one that is built on the recognition of rights, respect, cooperation, and partnership.
The Government of Canada is working with many partners to reduce the disproportionate impact of TB on Indigenous peoples, in particular Inuit, where rates of active TB continue to be unacceptably high. Through the Inuit-Crown Partnership Committee, the Government of Canada and the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami are working together to eliminate TB across Inuit Nunangat by 2030, and to reduce the rate of active TB disease by at least 50 percent over the next six years. Collaboration also continues with provincial and community partners to ensure information and health care services are available to newcomers to Canada, among whom TB may be more common due to increased prevalence of the disease in their country of origin.
The Government of Nunavut, along with many partners has taken a leadership role in the operation of community-based mobile TB screening clinics. Last year and earlier this month I had the opportunity to visit two of these clinics and meet with elders, community members, and clinic staff. Throughout these visits, I was impressed and inspired by the incredible leadership and level of community support, which has been making such critical progress in some of the most impacted communities. Clearly, engaging with local community partners is key to building sustainable and culturally appropriate approaches to effective TB prevention and control in Canada’s north. We must also strengthen the public health system by ensuring that leading-edge diagnostics, treatment and care are made available to public health practitioners and the communities they serve.
For its part, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is supporting the goals of the Inuit-Crown Partnership Committee and the work Government of Nunavut directly, through placement of three public health officers dedicated to TB elimination in the North and mobilisation of expertise and equipment from the PHAC’s National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg to support local capacity building for community-based TB screening.
Eliminating TB will not be easy. Addressing the conditions that increase susceptibility to and promote spread of the disease, such as crowded housing and food insecurity, and ending the stigma and discrimination too often associated with it, will require ongoing commitment and collaboration among all partners.
The time is now to end TB in Canada.
Dr. Theresa Tam
Chief Public Health Officer of Canada